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This Is Your Brain On Relationships

Amy Varland

Valentine's Day is approaching and love is in the air. Relationships can be a rollercoaster of thoughts and feelings – extreme highs and extreme lows. Falling in love is exciting. It can make your palms sweaty and your stomach do flip flops. A painful break up though can leave you feeling devastated and physically ill. Psychology researchers say science is behind those feelings. Here’s a little of what’s going on in your brain when you fall in love with someone, and how to cope if the relationship doesn’t work out.

Many have experienced both the giddy, intoxicating feeling of falling in love as well as the heart-wrenching, nauseating agony of getting dumped - the feelings associated with each are distinct and arguably unforgettable.
So whether it’s butterflies in your stomach, or the feeling that your heart is literally breaking, Black Hills State University Psychology Professor Dr. Eric Clapham says romantic relationships have a physical effect on the human body.
“And when we think about people who are crushing on somebody or falling in love with somebody we see some very interesting things happening in the brain. We see dopaminergic systems, which is pleasure centers kind of, and so we see this area, it’s called, we’ll just call it the VTA. The VTA is a factory of dopamine. And so it produces dopamine and it sends that dopamine, it sends that to areas in the brain, reward centers in the brain. Reward, right? It’s very euphoric!” says Clapham.
While falling in love may feel like an extreme high, being dumped by that special someone can sink a person to new lows. Depression can set in and adversely affect a person’s health in several ways.
BHSU Psychology Professor Dr. Nate Deichert says there are healthy ways to cope with a broken heart.
“Not losing touch with members of your other social network. So being integrated with friends and family, talking to them, getting the support from them, having that emotional support. There’s lots of research out there also that suggests that pets and relationships with pets functions in a very similar way to humans,” says Deichert.
Deichert says to also try meditating and concentrating on things that you are thankful for. He says getting back out on the dating scene can be therapeutic as well.
So whether you’re spending this Valentine’s Day solo or with your soul mate, make it a sweet one and treat yourself to something special.


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